Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) is proposing an increase in cave tour fees for the Round Spring Cave and camping fees for the rustic backcountry campgrounds within the park.

Additionally, the Jerktail rustic backcountry camping area is proposed to be added as a fee area.

ONSR officials say the proposed rate increases are necessary in order for park camping fees to remain comparable with local privately owned businesses. The current camping fees have not been raised in the backcountry sites since 2008.  

In addition, cave tour fees have not been increased since 2003 and are significantly lower than other area caves. The new rates would take effect April 15, 2018.

“Under the current rate structure, the camping fees and cave tour fees at Ozark Riverways are lower than some privately operated campgrounds and show caves, and we do not want to undercut these local business owners,” said ONSR Superintendent Larry Johnson.

“This rate increase will help us avoid that, and will also help provide additional funding that will be used for on-going improvements. The installation of the new concrete shower house at Alley Spring campground in July 2017 is just one example of the types of projects that can be accomplished with recreation fee revenue.”

The proposed camping fees are:

• Basic family backcountry campsites (limit 6 people) will go from $5 to $10 a night.

• Cluster backcountry campsite at Big Tree (7-20 people) will go from $15 to $20 a night.

• Round Spring Cave tours (adults) will go from $5 to $10.

• Round Spring Cave tours (children 12 and under) will go from $2 to $5.

The existing rustic backcountry campgrounds are located at Big Tree, Grubb, Gooseneck, Bay Creek, Blue Spring, Rymers, Shawnee Creek, Two Rivers Primitive, Logyard, Sinking Creek, Cedar Grove, and Dee Murray.

This rate increase does not apply to front country campgrounds at Alley Spring, Round Spring, Pulltite, Two Rivers and Big Spring, which will remain the same.

Johnson said ONSR is able to keep the fees collected from its campgrounds and cave tours to use for improvements to visitor facilities and services such as upgrading restroom and shower facilities, maintaining trails, improving campgrounds, and educational programs for students.

To comment on the proposed rate increase, please respond by Nov. 20 to Lisa Figge at lisa_figge@nps.gov or (573) 323-8144.

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Congratulations to the Traveler’s very own Bill Cooper, who was inducted into the 2018 Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame back in August.

Cooper was born in 1949 along the banks of the Black Bayou in the Mississippi River Delta of southeast Missouri.

He has experienced fishing at its finest across much of the globe.

Jimmy Sexton

In the process he has educated and entertained countless thousands of anglers and helped them dream of those far away fishing destinations.

Above all, he taught them the personal values of fishing and how to preserve the resources. As an outdoor communicator Cooper has published over 1,500 fishing articles. He has hosted television programs and been a radio show host.

In 2016, Cooper was recognized on the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives for a long and productive career of promoting hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation through his outdoor communication efforts.

Cooper has been writing for the Traveler for over 20 years, and I get comments often from people who’ve read something he’s written for us.

I know I speak for our readers when I say thanks, Bill, for being part of the Traveler team.

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Fall floaters and anglers are reminded to check on the status of Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) river accesses before heading out on a canoe trip or an evening of gigging.

More than 184 MDC accesses and conservation areas were damaged in historic spring flooding. MDC staff has been working to prioritize repairs across southern Missouri. Currently, only four river accesses remain closed due to extensive flood damage.

One of the accesses still not open is the Jerome Access in Phelps County. This site remains closed while MDC discusses future options for this popular Gasconade River access that has been in the bull’s eye of several recent flooding events.

Most recently, the site was the victim of flooding in April. The damage report included an entrance road washed out by a deep scour hole, a parking lot surface washed away entirely, a privy’s concrete apron flipped over and moved by floodwater, a boat ramp buried under deposited gravel, and multiple scour holes at the site.

Though the cause of this particular damage was a weather event the National Center for Environmental Information termed a “once in a millennium rainfall,” Jerome Access’ flood troubles have been much more frequent.

There have been multiple closings of the site due to flooding in the past decade, the most notable being in 2013 and 2015 when the site was shut down for extended periods while significant damage was repaired.

While Jerome Access is closed, the nearest MDC accesses on the Gasconade are Bell Chute Access in Maries County, near Vienna, and Riddle Bridge Access in Pulaski County, near St. Robert.

Accesses currently closed for repairs due to flood damage include:

• Paydown Access on the Gasconade River (Maries County).

• Warren Bridge Access on the North Fork of the White River (Ozark County).

• Cook (Flo ) Access on Bryant Creek (Ozark County).

• Mrytle Access (Oregon County) on Eleven Point River (only boat ramp is closed).

Mitschele Access on the Gasconade River in Pulaski County is also closed, but this closure is due to construction on Missouri Highway 7, not flood damage.

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As always, if you have any story suggestions or something you’d like to read about in the Traveler, please call or email me. I’d love to hear from you!

(Jimmy Sexton is owner and publisher of the River Hills Traveler. He can be reached at (800) 874-8423, ext. 1, or jimmy@riverhillstraveler.com.)